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Mr. Beecher turns oftenest to the sunny side of life, and loves to dwell on all that feeds the happiness of the human heart. He will not pick up withered leaves if there be any green ones. He seems to revel in a bright religious light. 'When one's friends die we should go to the grave, not singing mournful psalms, but scattering flowers. Death was wrecked long ago. Christ has taken the crown from the tyrant. When Christians walk in black and sprinkle the ground with tears, then is the time when they should. illuminate. As the disciples found the angels in Christ's grave, so in the grave where any of his loved disciples lie are angels of consolation, if we would only see them.'
Mr. Beecher has been accused, in common with some other faithful men, of preaching politics. In this charge there is no doubt some truth. His views of the duties and responsibilities of the pulpit seem much more expanded and comprehensive than those of many of his contemporaries. Certainly his vindication of his conduct in this matter is neither powerless nor inapplicable :
'Nothing can more sharply exhibit the miserable imbecility which has come upon us, than the inability of men to perceive the difference between preaching "politics," "social reform," &c., and preaching God's truth in such a way that it shall sit in judgment upon these things, and every other deed of men, to try them, to explore and analyze them, and to set them forth, as upon the background of eternity, in their moral character, and in their relation to man's duty and God's requirements.
'Shall the whole army of human deeds go roaring along the public thoroughfares, and Christian men be whelmed in the general rush, and no man be found to speak the real moral nature of human conduct? Is the pulpit too holy, and the Sabbath too sacred, to bring individual courses and developments of society to the bar of God's Word for trial? Those who think so, and are crying out about the
desecration of the pulpit with secular themes, are the lineal descendants of those Jews who thought the Sabbath so sacred that our Saviour desecrated it by healing the withered hand. Would to God that the Saviour would visit His Church and heal withered hearts!'
He is a man of a thoroughly practical mind. He seems to despise all trifling with great themes, all prettiness of speech, all 'playing at preaching.' With him it is an earnest and fruitful work, and no solemnity of utterance is in his mind an apology for dry and dull sermons :—
'Consecrated dullness is no better than flippant folly. If a window fails to let the light through, it makes little difference whether the obscuration comes from the web of a big, lazy spider, or from the nimble weavings of a hundred pert little spiders.
God's truth really, earnestly, pungently spoken, for a direct and practical purpose, with distinct results constantly following, that is preaching, no matter what are the particular methods of speech. Doubtless some are better than others. But every sincere and truthful man must use that way by which God has enabled him to achieve success; some by solid statements, some by inexorable reasonings, some by illustration and fancy, some by facts and stories-just as God has given power to each one. But the test is the same in the highest and the lowest. Fruit must follow. The truth of God must shine through the human instrument and evince its divinity by signs following the awakening of the conscience, conviction of sin, conversion to God, and a life redeemed from selfishness and set aglow with Christian goodness and benevolence.'
We ought never to forget that truth should be full of life and sap, breaking into blossom and bowing down with its heav harvest of fruit. Religion should be set forth in forms and relations applicable to the age, such as Apostles would preach were they living in this nineteenth
century of ours. That preacher is sure to put forth power who preaches truth for to-day adapted to the trials and temptations, the necessities and griefs of those who are busy working out the problem of life; who preaches it not in antiquated formulas, and crabbed technicalities-stilted, high, and hard-but in the garb of every-day life: who loves to set forth religion around the fireside in garbs that may not decorate but do not disguise-in the counting-house and in the markets of the world. What can be more graphic or true than the following:
'The tides come twice a day in New York harbour, but they only come once in seven days in God's harbour of the sanctuary. They rise on Sunday, but ebb on Monday, and are down and out all the rest of the week. Men write over their store door, "Business is business," and over the church door, "Religion is religion;" and they say to religion, "Never come in here," and to business, "Never go in there." "Let us have no secular things in the pulpit," they say; "we get enough of them through the week in New York. There all is stringent and biting selfishness, and knives, and probes, and lancets, and hurry, and work, and worry. Here we want repose, and sedatives, and healing balm. All is prose over there; here let us have poetry. We want to sing hymns and to hear about Heaven and Calvary in short we want the pure Gospel, without any worldly intermixture.' And so they desire to spend a pious, quiet Sabbath, full of pleasant imaginings and peaceful reflections; but when the day is gone all is laid aside. They will take by the throat the first debtor whom they meet, and exclaim, "Pay me what thou owest. It is Monday." And when the minister ventures to hint to them something about their duty to their fellow-men, they say, "Oh, you stick to your preaching. You do not know how to collect your own debts, and cannot tell what a man may have to do in his intercourse with the world." God's law is not allowed to go into the week. If the merchant spies it in his store, he throws it over the counter. If the clerk sees it in the bank, he kicks it out at the door. If it
is found in the street, the multitude pursue it, pelting it with stones, as if it were a wolf escaped from a menagerie, and shouting, "Back with you. You have got out of Sunday." There is no religion in all this. It is mere sentimentalism. Religion belongs to every day; to the place of business as much as to the church. High in an ancient belfry there is a clock, and once a week the old sexton winds it up; but it has neither dial-plate nor hands. The pendulum swings, and there it goes, ticking, ticking, day in and day out, unnoticed and useless. What the old clock is, in its dark chamber keeping time to itself, but never showing it, that is the mere sentimentality of religion, high above life, in the region of airy thought; perched up in the top of Sunday, but without dial or point to let the people know what o'clock it is, of Time or of Eternity.'
Such outspoken preaching will of course give offence. The mills and the docks and factories must be horrified. The Stock Exchange would expel the preacher. But the preacher is right notwithstanding.
Some of his pithy remarks are fit to be household words:
'A helping word to one in trouble is like a switch on a railway track-but one inch between wreck and ruin and smooth on-rolling prosperity.
'Slavery is a state of suppressed war.
A grindstone that has no grit in it, how long would it take to make an axe sharp? Affairs that have no pinch in them, how long would they take to make a man?
'A man who is in the right knows that he is in the majority, for God is on his side.
The human heart is like an artist's studio. You can tell what the artist is doing, not so much by his completed pictures, but by the half-finished sketches and designs which are hanging on his wall. So you can tell the course of a man's life not so much by his well-defined purposes as by the half-formed plans, the faint day-dreams, which are hung in all the chambers of his heart.'
Mr. Beecher is the preacher for the people. His sermons
are not fierce, vulgar, and vituperative declamation, without a scintillation of genius, however sincerely meant. They are pregnant with celestial fire, rich in suggestive and original thought. Here and there we find nuggets of gold and gems of the first water. Yet he never loses sight of the end of a sermon, which is to profit, or of the hearers of it who are ignorant, sinful, and unhappy. He says quaint things, but never coarse and equivocal. Our clergy may copy and study his excellences, and avoid his interspersed and sometimes provocative remarks. He is not a model, but he is better-he is capital, available capital, on which others may draw, and send what they draw into currency in thoughts and words that will do the world a vast deal of good.
He has carried into manhood the freshness and the exuberant force of earlier days, and overflows, therefore, with sympathy and communion with all living and growing things. He says occasionally an indiscreet thing, but rarely, if ever, a tame thing.
Yet some of his epigrammatic sayings are occasionally forced. The originality of the following does not atone for their constrained character :
'She was a woman, and by so much nearer to God as that makes one.
'To some men the mere fact of existence, the simple walking through the air and light, gives more pleasure than others find in the whole round of so called plea
'A man's religion is not a thing all made in Heaven, and then let down and shoved into him. It is his own conduct and life. A man has no more religion than he acts out in his life.
'Men are not put into this world to be everlastingly fiddled on by the fingers of joy.
"When men complain to me of low spirits, I tell them to